At a very young age, a child has the ability to formulate ideas regarding the occupation of a lawyer, a nurse or even a doctor. However, studies have shown that most children have limited information regarding engineers, and the lack of knowledge can often perpetuate into adulthood(Cunningham et al., 2005; NAE, 2002). Augur et al. (2005) found that “occupational aspirations and expectations of children undergo dramatic development changes during the elementary years, as well as resisting change in other respects.” This means prior to school education,children have already formed their perception of occupations and that stereotypical attributes have already been firmly established. Therefore, it is important to introduce occupations, such as engineering, at a very early age typically before a child enters school. Few studies have looked at the influence of media on the career development of children,though it has been implied as the primary source of occupational learning (Watson & McMahon,2005). Media in the case of children includes the influence of television, toys, and literature(books, newspaper, magazines, etc.). Fictional story books are a compelling medium for introducing concepts to children at a young age, as it can present new information in an engaging way, increase the stimulation of the imagination and deliver messages. However, while the notions of doctor, teacher and firefighter are ubiquitous in young literature, there is a lack of engagement about engineers (Holbrook et al., 2008). A search of children’s literature, using multiple methods, found six books pertaining to engineering, four narrative storybooks, an autobiography, and a tradebook (non-fiction). These books were analyzed for (1) common misconceptions in engineering, (2) thematic analysis of messages, (3) integration of problem-solving ability, and (4) implications for learning in and out of classroom. The misconceptions observed were derived out of the author’s lack of knowledge regarding engineering, and often were associated with mismatched identities (i.e. an engineer operates a train). Messages included the application of math and science as tools for engineers and the concept that engineers impact the world around them. Problem solving ability was evidenced through main character interaction when faced with a challenge. A broader approach looking at children’s narrative stories investigated embedded engineering themes in popular stories. This examination revealed that many popular children’s stories communicated concepts relevant to engineering, although engineering was not explicitly described or discussed. These concepts included problem solving, multiple alternatives, and spatial conceptualization. Integrating children’s books with either direct engineer references or even using popular books containing implicit engineering concepts has implications for learning in both formal and informal environments.
2011, ASEE, children's literature
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